Academic journal article Framework

Two Film Treatments: Protest and the Fall

Academic journal article Framework

Two Film Treatments: Protest and the Fall

Article excerpt

When developing The Fall, Peter Whitehead drew upon a range of ideas and scenarios he had previously worked with in the early sixties. While still a student at the Slade, he had experimented with writing projects concerned with protest and the act of assassination. The latter in par tic u lar became something of an abiding theme for Whitehead. A recurrent motif in work produced during this period is that of assassination as protest: a spectacular, catalyzing act. These themes are discussed in the completed version of The Fall, but Whitehead had envisaged a very different final result when preparing the treatment in early 1968. The text outlines a film that is not without formal sophistication, but appears to position itself within the genre of the thriller. There is a distinct narrative core based around the theme of assassination and specifically, the central character's decision to murder a terminally ill man as an act of protest. The text is preceded here by Protest, an additional treatment from 1967. This is not an earlier draftof The Fall document, but a separate text composed prior to Whitehead's experiences in New York. While Protest is closer in tone to the projects Whitehead worked on in the early sixties, both texts are connected on the basis of sharing this same narrative event, the act of "sacrifice." They are concerned with the "symbolic" assassination, a traumatic act that aimed to foreground the voracious recuperating ability of the "Mass Media."


Film Synopsis by Peter Whitehead

© Copyright 1967 Lorrimer Enterprises Limited


1. Stephen, the main character in the film. Nineteen years old, a student at University College London. He is studying Physics and the History and Philosophy of Science, but is increasingly disenchanted and disillusioned with his studies. He is much more interested in writing, music, painting and other activities that such a young idealist would find more rewarding.

2. The Brigadier, Stephen's father, who since the war has been working at the War Office in a department connected with the Defence, Nuclear Energy and Missile Programme.

3. The girl who becomes Stephen's girlfriend. She is eigh teen and working as a student nurse in a hospital in London.

Story Treatment

The film starts in the luxurious Belgravia flat of the Brigadier, who is giving a farewell party upon his retirement from the War Office. The party consists largely of "grown- ups," the elegant society that the Brigadier has cultivated during his esteemed bowler hat years at the War Office. His son is alone, observing his father's friends whom he obviously somewhat despises and from whom he has always been alienated. It is learnt that the Brigadier is retiring to a large, beautiful country house somewhere in the West Country and is giving up the social life he has enjoyed for the last ten years. He laughingly jokes about his "return to nature."

Stephen will no longer have this "home and protection" and moves into a bed- sitting room somewhere near his University department.

The following day Stephen is in the laboratory working. He talks to some of his friends and we realise his lack of enthusiasm for his work. We see him returning to his new room already decorated with all the emblems and signs of the introverted sensibility. He is a lonely sort of person and probably does not realise just how much more vulnerable he will be living alone, even though he never thought he enjoyed living with his parents.

One weekend a few weeks later Stephen is at the home of his father on their "estate." His father takes him for a walk and talks patronisingly about the peace and quiet of his new life and how he welcomes the opportunity to reflect on and remember the years before he started his job in the City. Stephen obviously wants to talk about himself but finds it impossible. His sensitivity contrasts harshly with his handsome father's arrogant confidence. …

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